Is it fair to compare Amazon’s Fire TV with Google’s Chromecast? Maybe not. Amazon’s $99 low profile 4.5″ x4.5” box was built with more processing power and memory than Chromecast, and is really better compared with Apple TV and Roku 3. But the smaller, $35 Chromecast dongle packs a lot of technology in its shell, and is certainly worth the money even if used just occasionally.
Chromecast doesn’t have as many bells and whistles as Fire TV; it’s just a dongle with HDMI and USB ports. Amazon’s Fire TV, on the other hand, comes with a remote control, voice search, Dolby Digital Plus support, and a few more ports.
The other big difference is that Fire TV supports video games, with a new Amazon Game Controller shipping soon. Although the controller will cost an extra $40, it essentially turns the Fire TV into a light gaming console. And, Amazon has opened the gaming platform to developers hoping to expand the role of the Fire TV beyond movies and TV shows.
Besides the obvious price difference (and size difference), let’s take a look at how these two treaming devices compare. To look at how the Roku compares, take a look at our Fire Tv Vs Roku 3 review to know which to buy for your home.
The Fire TV comes with a Qualcomm Krait 300 quad-core processor and 2GB memory compared to the Chromecast’s single-core processor and 512MB of memory. And, the Fire TV sports a Qualcomm Adreno 320 GPU. That’s a huge difference in processing power especially when you talk about handling HD video and any high demand video games. Fire TV also wins in storage specs with 8GB vs. Chomecast’s 2GB of flash storage.
Winner: Fire TV
Google’s Chromecast is compatible with Android and Apple iOS for phones and tablets, and Chrome for PC and Mac. Because Chromecast doesn’t have a remote, you’ll need to control it using a PC, tablet or mobile phone. Amazon’s Fire TV is only compatible with the Android OS. Does this mean Amazon is ignoring the Apple market? Who knows, but for now Chromecast wins this category.
Amazon Fire TV currently has quite a few more channels than Chromecast (although not nearly as many as Roku), and boasts over 200,000 movie, TV and music titles to choose from the Amazon digital library. On the other side, one of the complaints Chromecast owners have is the lack of channels and need for more apps on the platform. Chromecast supports the more popular channels such as Netflix, YouTube, Crackle, HBO GO, Hulu Plus, Pandora, and of course Google Play services. But Fire TV supports those and more including Bloomberg TV, NBA Gametime, Showtime Anytime and Watch ESPN.
Critics who have experimented with Fire TV’s Voice Search have overall been happy with the feature. Although the search is limited to Amazon products only (for example, a search for “Jobs” doesn’t show it available in Netflix’s library), queries have resulted in more positive than negative responses. Chromecast doesn’t support voice search.
Both devices support 1080p HD video, but the Fire TV has additional support for Dolby Digital Plus with support up to 7.1 Surround Sound (an advantage over Apple TV and Roku 3 which only support Dolby Digital). Also with Fire TV, audio can be played through HDMI or the device’s Optical Audio port.
Casting may be one of Chromecast’s best features. Although limited to cast from the Chrome app itself, the feature lets you take just about any content you are viewing from any application (including photo and video applications, Netflix, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, and YouTube) and “cast” it to a big screen TV. Your smartphone or tablet then becomes a remote control from which you can pause, rewind, etc. You can also cast using a PC just by adding the Google Cast extension to the Chrome browser. The feature can be clunky, but in time should become more streamlined.
Fire TV has the ability to “fling” what you’re watching on a Kindle Fire HDX tablet to a large screen TV, and use the tablet as a second screen or to do other tasks. Amazon has also starting supporting Miracast-enabled accessories and TVs, allowing you to use your HDTV as a large monitor for your tablet.
The Fire TV includes a couple exclusive features like ASAP that can predict what movies and TV shows you watch and pre-buffer them. And, Amazon FreeTime (coming in May) is a feature that can be set to limit screen time for kids (or adults who can’t manage their own TV time). Chromecast doesn’t really have anything like those features.
Chromecast plugs into an HDMI port and sits discreetly behind your HDTV. You also need to get power to it either through a USB connection or AC adapter. In most cases the USB power connection is easier to hide behind a TV, while AC may have to be run away from the TV to the nearest outlet.
Fire TV also connects via HDMI to your TV but includes a power adapter you need to connect to a two-pronged power outlet. (There isn’t a USB option for power, although a USB port is included on the back.) The box is small enough to hide anywhere, and because it’s so light (9.9 ounces) you could even Velcro it to the back of your TV.
Both are simple to install, but we give this one to Chromecast because of the USB power option, less cords to deal with, and ability to just plug into an HDMI port and forget about it.
Fire TV has five ports: Power, Ethernet, USB, HDMI and Optical Audio. Chromecast has two ports: HDMI and USB. It’s a bit unfair to rank this one, but Fire TV wins because of more options.
Chromecast supports single band Wi-Fi, while Fire TV supports Dual-band/Dual-antenna (MIMO).
As mentioned before you need to control Chromecast using a phone or tablet app. The Fire TV comes with a remote control, and it connects through Bluetooth, although it would have been sweet if the remote had a headphone jack like the Roku 3’s control.
Although the Game Controller is yet to be released, Amazon’s Fire TV supports about 130 first- and third-party games like Minecraft-Pocket Edition, The Game of Life, or Amazon Game Studios’ exclusive Sev Zero. Google’s Chromecast doesn’t video games.
Chromecast gives you plenty of bang for your buck at $35 — about than 1/3 of the price of the $99 Fire TV. However, the Fire TV gives you a remote control, gaming options and has many more channels to access. If you judge this category by what you get with the device, and not just a direct number comparison, Chromecast wins. And, you compare Fire TV with Apple TV and Roku – both equal in pricing, the Fire TV falls a bit short of its competitors.
Both the Fire TV and Chromecast give you a 1-year warranty on the devices.
As prefaced, it’s sort of an unfair comparison given the price difference. But if you’re looking for a streaming device just to get (let’s face it) Netflix on your TV, both do the same trick but Chromecast does it for $65 less.